Not Even Wrong

From Scientificmetho

From the weblog and book entitled "Not Even Wrong" by Peter Woit

An apparently scientific argument is said to be not even wrong if it is based on assumptions that are known to be incorrect, or alternatively, theories which cannot possibly be falsified or used to predict anything.


The phrase was coined by the early quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his colorful objections to incorrect or sloppy thinking.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> Peierls (1960) writes of Pauli, "... a friend showed him the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli's views. Pauli remarked sadly, 'That's not right. It's not even wrong.' "<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref> In science and philosophy, it is known as the principle of falsifiability.


Statements which are "not even wrong" may be well-formed, but lack reference to anything physical (as in "Souls are immortal", because the noun "soul" is not well-defined in terms of experimental results), or may simply be gobbledygook which appears meaningless (as in some of the Time Cube writings). The phrase suggests that even a wrong argument would have been better.

The phrase "not even wrong" is often used to describe pseudoscience or bad science, and is considered derogatory.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref>

Further meanings

"Not even wrong" has also come to mean science which is well-meaning and based on the current scientific knowledge, but can neither be used for prediction nor falsified. Such theories are non-scientific, even when they are spoken in scientific language. The phrase has been applied to aspects of the super string theory of physics on the grounds that, although mathematically elegant, it provides (as of now) neither predictions nor tests.

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